Whether it’s the cereal boxes in the kitchen or the book on your nightstand, paper products are present everywhere. We also buy many products that have paper packaging. Whereas paper comes from trees, there are many repercussions of paper production.
From the source down to the manufacturing process, traditional paper processing contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, traditional paper production usually requires tons of freshwater. To mitigate these effects, eco-friendly paper is becoming more popular. It offers many benefits including a lower carbon footprint, sustainability, and responsible sourcing.
We can find paper in our homes, office, and most places we might stop to take a note. From tag labels and gift cards to textbooks and journals, there’s no denying the presence of this product. As much as we’ve come to rely on paper, we also need to consider the sustainability factor. The paper industry contributes to environmental issues.
Our world loses around four billion trees every year due to paper production2. Paper manufacturers have these trees cut down to produce wood pulp for paper products. This leads to deforestation, a global threat to our environment and world. Since traditional paper typically comes from virgin wood pulp and fibers, they come from freshly cut trees. Trees and forests serve as carbon sinks, and when their numbers reduce, it affects the ecosystem. This also poses a threat to wildlife habitats.
Related: Deforestation Facts & Statistics
Another major challenge of traditional paper sourcing and production is the amount of water the industry uses. A single A4 sheet can use up to 20 liters of water4. Using recovered paper can save up to 40% of the water footprint1. Furthermore, the production process contributes significantly to waste and pollution. The synthetic and toxic chemicals the industry uses to dye papers sometimes seep into waterways. This pollutes water bodies such as rivers and lakes.
When we examine the lifecycle of paper and packaging, we see why we need eco-friendly alternatives. Apart from felling trees, significant energy, water use, and pollution, there’s also the threat of greenhouse gasses. The production process to produce paper products such as packaging and books require significant energy use and chemicals. As a result, this contributes to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming and climate change.
Over the years, people have developed alternatives to traditional paper products and materials—the two main kinds of eco-friendly paper are FSC Certified papers and recycled paper products. These help to curb the negative impact of standard paper manufacturing.
Furthermore, there has also been a rise in tree-free papers. This alternative uses materials such as bamboo, jute, and hemp. Ultimately, the goal of recycling, responsible sourcing, and tree-free options is to present consumers with a choice of greener, eco-friendly paper products.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification ensures responsibility in wood sourcing for paper. FSC puts regulations in place to protect our forests which both environmental and social benefits.
Apart from deforestation’s threat to wildlife, sourcing paper also affects local communities that rely on the forests for survival. Around 200 million indigenous people directly depend on forests for their survival3. Forests also provide fuel, food, medicine, and a means of livelihood.
FSC is one of the prominent standards and logos that customers use to measure the green nature of paper. FSC Certified products have less impact on the environment. These come from forests that are sustainably managed or sometimes from post-consumer waste. Any business that provides papers that carry the FSC Certified logo means that they are environmentally and socially responsible. With FSC paper, there are three certifications:
This label indicates that these papers or materials contain wood sourced from FSC Certified forests.
The materials in this type of paper are reclaimed or reused materials. This means that they come from either post-consumer or pre-consumer waste. Recycling helps to reduce the pressure and effect of sourcing virgin materials.
FSC Mix means that the product is made up of wood from FSC certified or controlled forests and/or recycled materials.
This business offers sustainable paper products that serve various uses, whether for office paper or home use. It offers FSC Certified sustainable paper in various finishes, sizes, and colors. The business also provides envelopes, notecards, greeting cards, and stationery.
This business provides eco-friendly and creative packaging solutions to other companies. The company’s professional team can create custom packaging for your business or brand. Their FSC packaging creates eco-friendly, sustainable paper-based solutions.
Using post-consumer materials for paper is becoming one of the main alternatives to traditional paper. This is also a type of tree-free paper manufacturing since it doesn’t require cutting down fresh trees.
Recycling post-consumer materials are one of the ways to reduce the environmental impact of tree felling. Also, using recycled paper helps to prevent paper waste. More and more eco-conscious brands are using recycled paper as packaging for their products. This serves as part of the movement toward green processes.
However, recycled paper can’t serve as the main green solution. The more times you recycle paper, the more the quality deteriorates. For example, some publications reveal that you can recycle paper fiber between five to seven times. Afterward, it begins to lose its ability to make quality new products. This is why more brands are now mixing recycled paper with sustainably sourced virgin wood pulp.
Related: Check out the options we have compiled to choose from eco-friendly business cards, eco-friendly journals, and diaries - many made from recycled paper. You'll also find some interesting biodegradable balloon alternatives a click away for celebrations with less plastic waste.
In many residential and office areas, you’ll notice that recycle bins are in place. A recycling program presents one of the green solutions to reduce paper waste in the office and unsustainable paper manufacturing.
First, people collate the papers from the bins. Then, they combine them in containers. Afterward, they take these to the recycling plants, where the workers separate the paper types. This aids processing.
To remove glues and inks, the workers wash the paper, which then forms a slurry. They treat the slurry, convert it into thin sheets and leave it to dry. At this point, manufacturers can convert the recycled paper into the desired new products. Examples of new uses include tissues, printing paper, cardboard, and holiday cards.
You’ll also find recycled paper making up a more significant percentage of cardboard box packaging. Many zero waste products and brands that champion plastic-free packaging also use recycled paper.
Furthermore, we can’t forget one of our more wasteful uses of paper discarded with each toilet flush. Eco-friendly toilet paper uses recycled materials to good effect alongside sustainable paper alternatives such as bamboo. Check out our guide to the best eco friendly toilet paper for a deeper dive.
This company uses 100% post-consumer recycled fiber for manufacturing paper products. According to the brand, it uses up to 80% less water compared with regular papers. It offers a range of styles of varying brightness, opacity, and finishing. You can either buy individual reams or buy in bulk as cartons.
The Boise ASPEN line offers a premium range of recycled papers. The brand gives you the option to choose from 30%, 50%, or 100% recycled content. Their various offerings are ideal for multiple uses. Also, this line of paper is acid-free.
Over the years, tree-free eco-friendly paper has been used as another sustainable swap for wood pulp. Some of these treeless alternatives include kenaf, sugarcane bagasse, hemp, linen, bamboo, and jute. Apart from writing papers, brands also make these into goods like paper towels, tissues, and paper straws.
Greenfield offers hemp and seed paper products while combining them with post-consumer pulp. These include custom packages, promotional items, invitation cards, journals, and envelopes. The company also presents a line of handmade papers by upcycling alternative fibers. It doesn’t use toxic dyes or bleaches as a part of its sustainable practices. Instead, for dyeing, it uses natural earth pigments as a green option.
Bluecat presents you with sustainable, handmade, and tree-free paper. It uses materials like linen, coffee husk, corn husk, cotton, and flax. Bluecat’s offerings include sketchbooks, assorted paper, and journals.
Every year, manufacturers cut down millions of trees to produce paper goods. Many of these come from areas that aren’t sustainably managed. As a result, the planet loses its vital source of oxygen and carbon sinks. The consequence of this is that more carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Wildlife species are also at risk because of this. Eco-friendly alternatives either come from sustainably managed forests or repurposing existing goods. FSC goods ensure that the origin is sustainable and ethical.
Recycling plays an essential role in preventing waste paper from ending up in landfills. Landfill sites pose a major environmental problem globally. Through eco-conscious processes, recycled paper can mitigate this issue.
From freshly cut trees to water usage, producing virgin paper can be resource-intensive. During the manufacturing procedures, a great amount of water and energy is needed. The switch to eco-friendly options helps to save not only trees but water as well. These natural elements are crucial to human life and survival. It also preserves these for the indigenous communities that directly depend on them for survival.
Many people are unaware of the process behind a single paper product. However, as sustainable and eco-friendly practices become the talk of the day, people are becoming more aware.
Recycling paper from post-consumer waste using FSC-certified paper and tree-free alternatives helps to reduce over-dependence on nature’s supplies. Several businesses and brands are presenting eco-friendly paper alternatives. Through their paper stock and packaging, they’re presenting green options.
Van Oel, P.R., & Hoekstra, A.Y. (2010). The Green and Blue Water Footprint of Paper Products: Methodological Considerations and Quantification. UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education
Arya, R. K., & Kansal, R. (2015). Utilization of Waste Papers to Produce Eco-Friendly Bricks. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR) ISSN (Online), 2319-7064.
Brack, D. (2018). Sustainable Consumption and Production of Forest Products. Background Analytical Study, 4.
Environmental Paper Network. (2018). The State of the Global Paper Industry
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.